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Home > Literacy Research Discussion group > LRDG meetings held in 2006

LRDG meetings held in 2006

24 Jan - Lenny Baer and Anita Wilson, Lancaster University

Visual Imprints on the Prison Landscape: A Geolinguistic Collaboration

People make statements in many ways, not just through words but also in actions expressed through the spaces around them. In the mundane reality of prison life, prisoners mark, remark, and modify their surroundings. Each mark can have layers of meaning. Everyday actions, like decorating a cell, scratching a name on a chair, or covering stains with paper or blankets, can be revealing about the identity and personal wellbeing of prisoners. In this study, we are beginning to examine the visual imprints that people make on prison landscapes, and the possible meanings and implications of those imprints to prisoners. We view prisons as living texts. In a sense, we are learning to read all over again, through a medium other than the written word.

In discussing our work, we are especially interested in exploring the possibilities of geography-linguistics collaborations around concepts of place, and the ways that one discipline might benefit the other. Ideally, theoretical frameworks from one discipline can be applied to the other, making unexpected conceptual leaps to set the stage for changes within both disciplines.

Possible questions for discussion:

In what ways might geographic thought be applied to linguistics, and vice versa? How might ideas from other disciplines inform geolinguistic research?

Prisoners have various ways of transforming institutional spaces into personal spaces. How might such transformations reflect or magnify the ways that we personalise other spaces?

When and why do people intentionally alter some spaces and not others? To what extent might the reasons for changing spaces be distinct to a particular setting, such as a prison?

31 Jan - Sondra Cuban, Lancaster University

Doing feminist ethnographic research in an era of welfare reform in the U.S.

I find that feminist ethnography is a powerful perspective — for bringing women’s lived experiences into policy debates and for seeing the gendered nature of the literacy field. In this talk, I share my experience of using feminist ethnography to locate contradictions in welfare reform in the U.S., and I consider its implications for literacy research, policy, and practice.  

7 Feb - Susan Jolliffe

Widening or Increasing Participation?

This presentation will consider some of the issues raised from a ''telling" case study of an ESF funded project, targeted at women returners in Suffolk. Learner voices are the main source of information regarding recruitment, retention and progression analysis. This perspective is put into context by the inclusion of local and national policy guidelines and directives. The research evolved into a consideration of the project's planned and actual outcomes, with the corresponding implications for widening participation.

14 Feb - Corinne Fowler, Lancaster University

The literacy practices of journalists reporting ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ in Afghanistan, 2001

This presentation will explore the social impact of journalists’ literacy practices in the domain of war reporting. The shifting demands associated with reporting conflict have engendered particular practices among journalists. Factors such as 24-hour news channels, the decline in resources allocated to international news coverage and the practice of ‘parachuting’ non-specialist reporters into conflicts mean that ‘barefoot’ journalism has become a rare luxury that time constraints rarely permit. I will examine the ways in which war correspondents carried out their background researches into Afghanistan in 2001.
Of particular relevance is the legacy of traumatic nineteenth-century Afghan-British encounters to the popular British imagination. Trapped at the Afghan border weeks after the conflict had begun, war reporters turned to nineteenth-century narratives, most particularly the fiction of Rudyard Kipling. This presentation will explore the causes and consequences of these practices and their relationship to the history of British ideas about Afghanistan.

2 Mar - Literacy Research Group (LRC) and Language Ideology and Power Research Group (LIP)

Discourses in Place: A Workshop with Ron and Suzie Scollon

Ron and Suzie  will start  the workshop off with a short introduction to their work for those not familiar with it.  Following this, there will be short inputs from people who have been using ideas from the 'Discourses in Place'  framework to interpret specific pieces of data . Ron and Suzie will respond  to these and we will then open a general discussion.  

Materials relevant to the workshop will be posted on the LLRC website ahead of time and see also http://www.aptalaska.net/~ron/ron

14 Mar - Michael Brophy, Africa Educational Trust

Teaching literacy in Somalia, a radio-based approach

This seminar is about a radio-based literacy and life skills project that the Africa Educational Trust (AET) and the BBC World Service Trust have developed for teaching literacy in the Somali language across Somalia and Somaliland. To date 30,000 people (mainly women) have completed the course, passed the final examination and have been awarded certificates. This non-formal education project uses content which was developed in consultation with the learners and is directly related to their everyday life skills and literacy needs.

21 Mar - Eliza Mood, Lancaster University

Literacies of Literature: Processes of Writing and Editing a Novel

This seminar will look at processes of writing and editing a first novel with the epithet (my own and the publisher's), 'literary'. I will draw on examples from the editing of my work to explore the tension between the dual role of the writer as producer of a readerly cultural artefact as well as the writerly role from which stance there is no artefact, only historical process. I attempt to uncover some aspects of the the productive relationship between narrative and non-narrative voices in this process. In negotiating a way through these tensions and relationships, the writer takes on new literacies and may contest an autonomous notion of literacy implicit in perceptions of what constitutes a literary artefact.

25 Apr - Robert Blake and Moira Peelo, Student Learning Development Centre, Lancaster University

Embedding the development of writing within a science faculty: a case study of a postgraduate writing course.

Our talk explores the experience of teaching a writing module to postgraduate scientists from a large science faculty. Students on this course are drawn from a range of scientific departments and are working for different degrees at different levels, some on taught courses and some by research. It describes the process of changing the design and philosophy of what had been an inherited course, based on a study skills model of writing to one which acknowledges writing as a social practice. The themes of collaboration and cooperation with science lecturers are explored as a means of investigating the writing practices of postgraduate scientists.

This experience raises a number of questions for the development of writing:
Pedagogical and practical ones concerning how to embed writing development within assessed degree schemes and the relationships with subject experts in this provision.
The effectiveness of generic writing courses for scientists and whether there is such a genre as scientific writing.

It illustrates the complexity of defining an appropriate context within which there could be said to be ‘shared academic practices'.

2 May - Lydia Tseng, Lancaster University

'Intercontextuality' and 'Recontextualisation' in Learning and Teaching Argumentation

In this presentation, I explore the learning and teaching of argumentation in an EFL writing class. The notion of 'intercontextuality' is applied to trace the relationship between speaking and writing in the learning-teaching of argumentation. Drawing upon Bernstein's notion of 'recontextualisation' (1990,1996), I illustrate how various elements of social practices from pedagogic and non-pedagogic contexts are selected and relocated in the learning-teaching of argumentation. This analysis reveals how opportunities for the learning of argumentative writing are created and regulated.

9 May - Chair: David Barton

“What am I reading?”

Bring along your current favourite Literacy related book to tell everyone about, or come along and listen to the latest ideas.

23 May - Friederike Lüpke, SOAS London

Beneath the surface – Arabic-based scripts in West Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is often characterised as a an area lacking precolonial written traditions (Olson and Torrance 2001), some marginal exceptions like the G’eez and N’ko scripts notwithstanding. Language planning throughout Africa therefore focuses on ‘grapization’ (Fishman 1974) or script development, based on the Roman alphabet. The resulting literacies often merely serve as a stepping stone towards literacy in the respective official (colonial) languages instead of promoting reading and writing in the vernaculars, as also observed for the pacific context (Mühlhausler 1990). Yet there exists a widely unknown alternative to Latin-based scripts – Ajami, a modified Arabic script. Ajami has been used for centuries for the writing of major African languages in the sphere of influence of Islam, such as Swahili, Hausa, Kanuri, Fula, Soso, Wolof (for this language the script is called Wolofal) and several Manding varieties. Where a precolonial literary tradition is present, it consists mainly of works written in Ajami, true to the dictum that ‘alphabet follows religion’ (Diringer and Regensburger 1968) Although officially replaced by standardised Roman orthographies for some languages, Ajami literacies continue to play an important, albeit completely informal, role, since every person with a Koranic education is able to read and write it. Literacy statistics in Ajami are not available, although it is expected that due to the prevalence of Islamic education over formal schooling in many of the concerned regions, literacy in Arabic/Ajami is much higher than in Latin based scripts. This existing competence is completely disregarded in official language planning, but at least rhetorically exploited Islamic standardisation projects, where Ajami is closely linked to Islamic identity. My talk will explore where Arabic-based scripts are used and what their social functions are for a number of West African languages.

30 May - Robert Crawshaw, Corinne Fowler, Graham Mort and Lynne Pearce

‘Moving Manchester/Mediating Marginalities: How the experience of migration has informed the work of writers in Greater Manchester from 1960 to the present.’

In January 2006 the Faculty of Humanities at Lancaster University received its biggest ever research grant. Work has since begun on the AHRC-funded project, which has recently received the new name of ‘Moving Manchester’. The project explores creative writing from Greater Manchester that has been informed and influenced by the experience of migration. The research team comprises literary critics, cultural theorists and creative writers and the project is unique in combining critical analysis with pro-active ‘literature development’ in its mission to produce an anthology of new work as well as a full academic study.

This presentation will detail the project aims and give an account of progress made so far. One of the most important project outputs is an electronic catalogue of creative writing that will take the form of an annotated bibliography. The e-catalogue is designed to widen knowledge of this writing and to facilitate access to it. We will show sample entries from this catalogue. As well as explaining our methodology in relation to key constituencies of writers identified so far, we will discuss the ethical and political dilemmas encountered by the research team in attempting to involve the wider public in its research. We will outline the process of negotiation and re-configuration necessitated by a critical engagement with creative writers, communities, independent publishers and agencies that have long played a role in promoting this writing. We can also recommend some excellent new reads!


6 June - Alisa Belzer, Rutgers and Ralf St. Clair

The challenges of consistency: National systems for assessment and accountability in adult literacy education

Assessment has been an increasingly important area of interest for several decades now. We look at the way assessment flows into accountability in national systems. If assessment is considered as a way to transmit information between individual learners and the educational system, our interest here is how that system receives the information and what it does with it. Our discussion will look briefly at the background and key features of national systems generally before moving into three case studies (US, England, and Scotland) of assessment and accountability systems, and will be followed by analysis of what can be drawn from the experiences in these three national settings.

13 June - Amy Burgess

The relationship between time, discourses and artefacts in the process of contextualising the learning of writing

I am carrying out an ethnographic study of the writing development of students in three adult literacy classes. My paper will focus on how the tutor and students in one class produced the context for a writing activity.
I view context not as an entity but rather as a process of contextualising and consider the roles played by time, discourses and artefacts in that process. I will start by explaining why I have found it useful to include a time dimension in my analysis of context and why I have chosen to focus on the relationship between time and discourses. I will identify the discourses of which I found evidence in this particular context before discussing two examples of artefacts used by the participants. I hope to show how the tutor and students used the artefacts to carry out the dual process of transferring discourses across different timescales and weaving together different aspects of time.

20 June - Pat Thomson, Nottingham University

The Makeover:A New Logic Of Practice In Policy Making?

The makeover is a genre of (televised) activity which aims to produce a transformation in appearance, behaviour and/or identity. One well known variant, seen in programmes such as What not to wear, Groundforce and How clean is your house, has the following characteristics:
(1) the object of the activity – self, home, garden etc – becomes a project.
(2) the object must be subjected to critique – voluntary is best – and shown to be deficient. The critique mobilises normative presentations of class, gender, race and sexuality
(3) because the object of the activity is incapable of self correction - it lacks appropriate know-how and networks (cultural/social capital), this must be provided in the form of the expert/expertise.
(4) the object of the activity is made over in public – the transformation must be seen to be done
(5) the object of the activity cannot be trusted to continue with the game and must be inspected and updated.
(6) The self as ongoing project is thus established together with the ongoing need for external expertise.
We suggest that this is the dominant form at work in UK policy, with schools recently subjected to both leadership (Gunter, 2001) and creativity (Hall & Thomson, 2005) makeovers in an effort to mop up the worst effects of the institutional makeover/takeover (Beck, 1999) effected by neoliberalism and New Public Management. .

This variant is not the only version of makeover. I look at other makeover manifestations such as the simulation promoted in Faking it, the development of counter perspectives offered via The Unteachables and the clout wielded by celebrity educational makeover Jamie’s Dinners. I also note that some makeovers , specifically the Pop Idol, X Factor talent quests and Who do you think you are geneology projects, do not presuppose that makeover subjects begin as empty vessels and work from the base principle that the people featured do possess skills, knowledges and the capacity to manage their own learning. I argue that the transformative potential offered by the makeover should not be simply dismissed: policy activists could gain from playing with the implications of makeover variants, and thinking how they might translate into public action against the excesses of teacher deskilling, centralized curriculum prescription, crude steerage via inspections and tests and false promises of new kinds of self determination.

27 June - Nan Jackson, Partnership Education Service Manager, Rochdale, currently seconded to write an all-age literacy policy for the Borough of Rochdale

Reclaiming Family Literacy

Rochdale LEA has been working in the field of parental involvement in their children’s learning since the late 1970’s, beginning with the Belfield Reading Project. (Hannon and Jackson 1987). I will discuss our journey from there to the present LSC Family Literacy, Language and Numeracy model of family literacy, and our responses to this agenda. I will look in particular at the way we use creative arts to engage learners from different communities. I will raise some of the issues, assumptions and challenges of seeing family literacy mainly in the context of the Skills for Life agenda, and why it is important to include practioners, learners and researchers in the discussion about a wider definition of family literacy.

10 Oct - Roz Ivanic and Candice Satchwell, Lancaster University

Reading and Writing the Self as a College Student: Fluidity and ambivalence across contexts

The Literacies for Learning in Further Education project is finding that students identify with the reading and writing that they do in some contexts, but not in others. We are finding that students vary in the extent to which they identify with the roles and positions inscribed in texts and practices the encounter in college. Our aim is to find ways of making the reading and writing associated with their college courses more compatible with their sense of who they are and who they want to become. In this presentation we explore some of these issues, and open up discussion about how ‘literacy practices’ are related to ‘identity’.

17 Oct - Kate Pahl, University of Sheffield

Narratives of migration and artefacts of identity: new imaginings and new generations

This presentation will describe an AHRC-funded research project, conducted with Andy Pollard, Sheffield Hallam, working with the Pakistani/Kashmiri community in Rotherham with a school and a Sure Start centre, to develop an exhibition of artefacts and narratives of migration, together with visual artist, Zahir Rafiq, and the Clifton Park museum in Rotherham. The project aimed to develop an exhibition, due to be put on in February 2007, and a website (www.ferhamfamilies.com) as a result of the research.

In this talk I will explore the following questions: What identity narratives are salient to second, third or fourth generation families settled in Rotherham of Pakistani/Kashmiri origin? What is the relationship between narratives and artefacts in the home, and how much are artefacts ways of upholding identity narratives? How do space and place figure within these narratives? Through description of the construction of the website and the museum exhibition, and the navigation of the project through the community partners, I will explore the relationship between space, place and identity narratives.

24 Oct - Marilyn Martin Jones and Buddug Griffith, University of Birmingham, and Anwen Williams, Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor

Land, language and literacy:
The working/learning lives of agriculture students in North Wales

This paper is based on ethnographic research on literacy currently in progress with young people in two rural settings in North Wales. The work is being carried out as part of a wider research project entitled: Bilingual literacies for learning in Further Education. Our main focus is on forty young Welsh speakers (in the 16 to 19 age range), on the ways in which they draw on literacies in different languages in their everyday lives, at home, at college and at work, and on the social identities and cultural values associated with these literacies. We are documenting a broad range of literacy practices, including reading, writing, the use and/or production of texts in different media and the use of different technologies.

In this paper, we present case studies of students who are enrolled in a bilingual, Level 3 course leading to a BTEC National Diploma in Agriculture. The course is offered at a Further Education (FE) college which is the leading post-16 provider of bilingual and Welsh-medium education in Wales. While pursuing their studies at this FE college, the students are also running their own small agricultural businesses and see their futures as being tied up with local land-based industries. We provide an account of the specific ways in which literacies are embedded in the working/learning lives of these young people and we examine the nature and scope of the reading and writing that they do at work and at college.

This research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC),
through its ‘Teaching and Learning Research Programme’,
over a two year period from May 2005 to August 2007.

31 Oct - Susan Orr, York St John University College

Transparent Opacity: Assessment in the inclusive academy

Academic literacies researchers view writing as a situated social practice (see for example, Clark & Ivanic 1997, Lillis 2001). This perspective foregrounds issues of culture, politics, context, power and identity. In this presentation I want to apply an academic literacies gaze on assessment research. My key argument is that academic literacies research has much to offer this field. Focusing on language as meaning-making (as opposed to message carrying) I will explore the disjuncture between written assessment guidelines and students’/staffs’ multiple understandings. This leads me to contest the notion of ‘transparent’ learning outcomes which form a mainstay of current assessment policy and research (e.g. Biggs 2001). I will identify and critique the techno-rationalism inherent in aspects of contemporary assessment and I will counter this with a focus on assessment as a social practice. I will go on to explore the ways that techno-rationalism serves to veil the power relations inherent in the act of assessment.

7 Nov - Dr. Jeff Evans, Middlesex University Business School

Emotions in Literacy and Numeracy Research?: Sidelight, Nuisance, or Necessary Ingredient?

I start from a discursive practice approach to understanding numerate (or broadly ‘mathematical’) reasoning and practices, and in particular the role of affect and emotions in these processes. My approach draws on Critical Discourse Analysis, work on pedagogic discourses in the sociology of education, and poststructuralist analyses, incorporating psychoanalytic concepts.

In this talk, I will discuss and illustrate a number of propositions about the role of affect and emotions in this area:

-Affect and emotions must be understood as socially organised, rather than as individual characteristics (or behaviours).

-Emotions, rather than being the fount of irrationality, are essential to the making of rational decisions.

-The influences on emotions towards mathematics, include constructions of early experiences and the images of mathematics and mathematicians in popular culture.

-The study of the emotions opens research up towards psychoanalytic perspectives.

14 Nov - Dr. Awena Carter, Lancaster University

What writing does for the writer: exploring the ways in which three dyslexic children transformed their reading, their viewing and their experiences into stories for Christmas.

Steedman (1982:99) asserts that in children’s writing ‘we need to look for what the writing does for the writer, not what the writer does to it, nor what it does for us.’ In this work in progress I am exploring the ways in which three dyslexic children drew on books and films, and on events in their own lives, to write story books for Christmas. I look for both actual intertextuality and interdiscursivity (Ivanic, 1998: 48) and the ways in which these

  • resonate with and transform the children’s experiences in the creative act of story writing
  • play a part in the development of their literacy practices.

References:
Ivanic, R, 1998. Writing and Identity. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Steedman, C, 1982. The Tidy House. London: Virago

5 Dec - Eamon McCafferty, Lancaster University

Two papers, two lives: Reggie and Jimmy writing for publication

In this talk I present data from work-in-progress which is exploring the professional literacy practices of a small group of university EFL instructors in Japan. Working backwards from papers submitted for publication by two of the participants, I observe processes involved in both the construction of the texts and the authors. Taking as orienting theory four aspects Barton et al (2006) consider crucial for linking learning and lives - history, current identities, current life circumstances, imagined futures - I aim to open the way for further discussion of the cultural values and social identities embedded in 'advanced' writing practices found in higher education and its environs.

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